On <i>Being John Malkovich</i>

Film critics have been groping for superlatives to describe the film Being John Malkovich.

Entertainment Weekly calls it "The most excitingly original movie of the year." The New York Post declares it "A surreal and hilarious tour de force," while Esquire went all out, calling the film "The last great movie of the century."

Malkovich talks to The Early Show about the film he appears in as himself.

The film revolves around an infrequently employed puppeteer, Craig Schwartz, portrayed by John Cusack, who is forced to seek another job to pay the bills.

He becomes a filing clerk at the Lester Corp., a company located on the seventh and a half floor of a New York office building. After dropping a folder behind a file cabinet, Schwartz discovers a small doorway that leads directly into the mind of John Malkovich, played by the actor himself.

Schwartz and a co-worker start a side business of selling access to Malkovich's mind for $200 a pop.
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Malkovich finds out that the puppeteer is selling trips through his own mind. So Malkovich takes the same trip, and experiences seeing a lot of versions of himself, who say, "Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich."
Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich

Read more about John Malkovich.

And what results for Schwartz, Malkovich and the rest of the film's characters is basically all hell breaking loose.

Malkovich says he was concerned that agreeing to do a movie that made fun of celebrity worship could backfire - "that suddenly whatever public persona I did have could suddenly be a lot bigger and that sort of gave me the creeps," he says.

Being John Malkovich is the feature film debut for both director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kufman.

Previously, Jonze made his reputation in music videos and commercials, which critics are quick to point out in relation to this film's quirky and unconventional approach.

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Read an analysis of the film.

Kaufman also approached writing the screenplay in an unconventional manner, by sewing together several separate stories he was working on into one swirling metaphysical stew.

Jonze, Kaufman and Malkovich have all said in various interviews they can't believe the film got made.

Some of the wicked humor in the film comes from its treatment of the media's reporting on Malkovich.

The actor says the message of the movie is something particularly important to him: "the obsession with celebrity in general and also, almost more importantly, about the need to lead a virtual life."

In a sense, as one critic noted, this is a film about Malkovich being a conduit for other people's fantasies.

"So that whatever happens in your life, or whatever joys or sorrows or interests or passions you have, are always secondary to someone out there, someone who is successful, someone who is known," Malkovich notes.

Just because someone is famous doesn't mean he or she is happier, cooler or living a more envious life - and it doesn't mean either that the public - the media included - has a right to know more about that person or to invade his or her privacy, he explains.

Malkovich now calls Paris his primary home. He lives there partly because the French are less celebrity obsessed than Americans, he says.

For more film information visit Being John Malkovich's official Web site.

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